Caution on Craigslist

As a child, my mother and grandmother warned me about the dangers of deals that looked too good to be true. Initially, the inexperience of youth prevented from understanding their wise words, but as I aged, that advice never left me.

During my junior year of high school, I began building a computer as a replacement for the Acer desktop (our family’s first personal computer) my mother purchased several years earlier. As I neared the end of my PC building project, I searched for the final remaining piece of the electronic puzzle: a video card. I desired a 3dfx video graphic card for years, but ironically, 3dfx went out of business the same year of my computer build, making it difficult to find one of its cards in brick-and-mortar stores.

With few affordable options left in the brick-and-mortar retail market, I tried something new: eBay. Mind you, this was back in the early days of the eBay and eCommerce in general, so there were plenty of folks green like me. The words of mom and grandmother echoed in my head as I searched the website for deals, and sure enough, I caught wind of a scam. Someone who seemingly sold 3dfx cards for a dollar was only selling information on how to buy said cards. Thankfully, I avoided that seller’s nonsense and eventually found a good deal on a Voodoo card. However,that experience soured me on eBay, and it took almost a decade before I purchased something again on the site.

Since returning to eBay, most of my transactions go smoothly but problems do occasionally occur, mostly the result of poor descriptions or bad packaging. Fortunately, eBay does feature policies that make it easier for refunds in such cases. Sometimes these policies do get abused by unscrupulous people, but I’m glad eBay keeps these policies in place. Last year, however, I broadened my eCommerce horizon by searching Craigslist for some potential deals. Outside of one decent yard sale, the pickings often remain slim by my (cheap) standards, but one type of ad constantly caught my eye:

Beware.

Rarely do I browse Craigslist without seeing these types of ads. All of them promise video game products for incredibly cheap prices, and many of them say the seller is located in downtown Chicago. Initially, I almost fell victim to these ads, but on the advice of my parents (yes, I still consult them) I backed off and am glad I did. After doing some research, I found a 2016 Reddit post on the matter, in which user “illegalsandwiches” discovered how these ad scams work by using a decoy email address when contacting the poster of one these listings. What follows is illegalsandwiches’ account of the experience:

Ignore the “cash only” portion of the sale, the verbage is usually taken from another ad (as well as the picture). When you reply to the email address, they will tell you that they are too far away from you and they can ship the item next day if you Paypal them. You pay them, and just never get the item. I had replied to one a long time ago that said that they only take MoneyPak cards for payment. One of them replied with some type of form that I needed to fill out with my name, age, birthday, SSN, “as he was selling this for his business” and needed this information for his records.

Sound shady enough? Upon reading Craigslist’s tips on avoiding scams, the first thing appears on the list in bold letters is “Deal locally, face-to-face.” Immediately following that tip (also in bold type) is “Don’t extend payment to anyone you haven’t met in person.” Obviously, the requests of both posters violate Craigslist tips, so common sense is key here. No matter how good a deal looks, if it seemingly asks too much of you, pass.

Upon seeing these ads, do yourself and others a favor by flagging these listings and admonishing anyone you know who comes across them. Hopefully, we can dissuade people from posting these dubious listings and avoid future scams. Until next time.

Peace & Pixels

The Need for Speed Turns 20

I almost forgot to do this post, but here it is anyway, even if it’s a bit tardy. Yesterday, Electronic Arts’s Need for Speed franchise turned twenty years old. There are 20 games in the NFS series (23 if you count the Region 1 V-Rally titles and Nitro X) which have seen release across several video game consoles and home computers. With combined sales of over 150 million copies, NFS is not only the best-selling racing video game series of all, but one of the best-selling video game franchises ever.

Happy 2-0! Pic comes from wikipedia.com

Throughout its run, the NFS  series has had a variety of themes for its games, ranging from racing exotic supercars cars on civilian roadways to facing off against underground street racers. In this post, we’ll focus on the first game in the series, Road & Track Presents: The Need for Speed.

The first. Pic comes from wikipedia.com

Originally released on Panasonic’s 3DO video game system (with later releases on DOS, Sega Saturn, and Sony PlayStation),  Road & Track Presents: The Need for Speed was developed by EA Canada (formerly Distinctive Software, Inc.) and Pioneer Productions with help from the folks at Road & Track magazine. The game features several exotic race cars of its time– among them the Dodge Viper and Mazda RX-7– for players to race on the roads of several fictional locales. People from Road & Track magazine came in to help EA accurately portray the game’s cars so they would perform like their real life inspirations. The game has a full motion video (FMV) intro, as well as FMVs for the selectable cars. If you’re interested, the game’s intro is embedded below  (respect to EA Latinoamerica for the upload).

Gameplay is for one or two players. Player cars are driven using either an in-car view ( with a unique cockpit for each car) or a third-person behind-the-car view. Races come in the form of circuit tracks and point-to-point races, the former which are long race divided into three stages. Police cars and pedestrian traffic hinder players on the point-to-point races, and if caught enough times, the player can get arrested, ending his or her game. Players have the option to save completed races and view them later with the game’s replay system.

In terms of its premise, Need for Speed was not unique for its time. Test Drive, a similar exotic car racer made by the now defunct Accolade, was first released in 1987. What made Need for Speed successful was its gameplay.The game provides a good sense of speed, making it seem as though the player is piloting an actual dream machine. For a look at some gameplay footage, check out the upload from DVD Gaming below.

My experience with the Need for Speed series is a little limited because I’ve only played the first game a few times at best. I do own one game in the series, Need for Speed II SE for Windows which I received in the late 1990s. Later, I got the demo for Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit and played that for a while, but the family computer wasn’t quite up to spec for it. That didn’t prevent me from enjoying the game, though. Low-res textures for the victory!

In college, I played Need for Speed: Most Wanted (the 2005 version) on the Xbox 360, and enjoyed it immensely. Since I haven’t played any of the later NFS releases. The cops versus racers dynamic in that game was great fun, and I imagine I’d still enjoy it today.

Like many successful video game franchises, NFS made its way to the silver screen. Earlier this year, Need for Speed, an action thriller starring Aaron Paul and the excellent Michael Keaton, hit the theaters. I like both Paul and Keaton, and they were the reasons why I went to see the film. My interest for the film peaked after watching the trailers, and even convinced a buddy of mine to go see it with me, and he had to make the quite the trip to do so.

To this day I still apologize to him.

It wasn’t Paul’s nor Keaton’s fault that the film was mediocre though there were (as there should have been) some good race scenes. It’s just… some games are better left on the consoles. If you’re at least somewhat curious about the movie, here’s the official trailer for it.

Happy 20th Need for Speed! It’s been a great ride indeed. EA released a special video commemorating the series earlier this year, is embedded below if you’re interested. Until next time.

Peace & Pixels

Edit: This post needed a bit of work. Pictures got added in (the original game’s box art), moved around (the franchise logo), and some of the general info was changed for accuracy’s sake.

Happy Father’s Day!

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Pic comes from YouTube.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads and grandads out there! Fatherhood is no easy task of course, and though I don’t speak from experience as a dad, as a son looking from the other side it looks a labor that could bring Hercules to his knees. Speaking of which, to all you dads who tried to teach us kids how to defend ourselves and this happened…

KenlosestoMel

Ooo! Pic comes from taringa.net

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Oowww… Pic comes from vgmuseum.com

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Oh well.  Pic comes from vgmuseum.com

…you’re the best!

And to you all single mothers out there who did your best raising one (or some) on your own, Happy Father’s Day to you as well! That being said, Happy Father’s Day Mom and Grandma!

Peace & Padres

E3 is here!

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It’s June, which means it’s time for the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). Every year in June, the heavyweights (and some of the upstarts) of the gaming industry gather in Los Angeles, California to show off their stuff. Today, industry giants Microsoft and Sony will be holding their press conferences, and should anything catch my attention I will cover it. Here’s hoping for a great E3!

Peace & Pixels

Lego Breaking Bad

Tonight, the final eight episodes of Vince Gilligan’s Emmy-winning show Breaking Bad will air on AMC, chronicling the fate of chemistry teacher turned meth dealer Walter White (portrayed by Bryan Cranston). The writers of Breaking Bad have had no shortage of gauntlets for White and his associate Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) to run through, and these last episodes will likely continue that trend.

While searching YouTube for Breaking Bad videos, I came across an excellent short by Brian Anderson, which re-imagines Breaking Bad as a Lego-style video game. If you’re a fan of the Lego video games, Breaking Bad, or just savvy entertainment, do give this video a watch.

Legos are children’s toys after all, so this game will likely never get made. Lego will almost certainly not license a game based on a show with such dark themes. One can hope, though. Until next time.

Peace & Pixels

Six Figure Saints

Have you seen the movie Scarface? If you haven’t (for shame!), it stars Al Pacino as the foul-mouthed Tony Montana, who’s insatiable appetite for wealth transforms him from an impoverished Cuban immigrant to one of Miami’s most notorious drug kingpins. Montana’s drive for success is sonically encapsulated in Giorgio Moroder’s song “Push it to the Limit,” which is part of the film’s soundtrack.

The song is a nice bit of 1980s cheese, with its distorted guitar rhythms, pulsing keyboards and bellowing vocals. It’s all a little bit dramatic, but perhaps that’s the point; the song can be seen as part of a greater theme about the desire for material wealth. Maybe that’s why I thought of the song when I read that Deep Silver’s upcoming game Saints Row IV has a $1 million dollar limited edition bundle.

Yes, you read that correctly. That’s a 1 followed by six zeros.

Not even Bushnell could have imagined this

Named the “Super Dangerous Wad Wad Edition” this is the most ridiculous limited edition of a game yet. Since its inception in 2006, the Saints Row series has become infamous for its ludicrous, over-the-top gameplay, which includes silliness such as diving into traffic to commit insurance fraud and beating up folks with a dildo bat. This limited edition package falls right in line with the series’ absurdities, but when you actually stop and read what it  includes, it’s actually quite impressive. There are a number of expensive items, among them a Lamborghini Gallardo, a seven night vacation in Dubai, a trip to Washington D.C., and a trip to space courtesy of Virgin Galactic. The cheapest thing in the bundle is the game itself (the bundle includes “Commander in Chief” version of the title), which is $60.

So is the cost for such a package at all justifiable? Daniel Nye Griffiths of Forbes crunched some numbers in his article on the matter, and came up with a figure just north of $800,000. The things Griffiths found hardest to quantify were the costs of the plastic surgery procedure (which is chosen by the purchaser), the spy lessons, the hostage rescue experience, and the limits of the shopping spree (the wardrobe capsule’s cost was a little confusing as well). The package is set to be delivered via helicopter, so that cost added in with all the labor wages and other fees will probably round the total price out to a million bones.

So where does one order such a ridiculously lucrative package? It can only be purchased through UK retailer Game, although Koch Media (the owner of Deep Silver) must be emailed directly in order to actually purchase the bundle. There’s only one available, so whoever gets it will truly have made a one of a kind purchase. I just can’t wait to see if that person try to resell it on eBay. Until next time.

Peace & Pixels

REGGIE SMASH!!

I can’t believe I missed this. There’s a petition on Change.org requesting that Super Smash Bros. designer Masahiro Sakurai place Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime in the game, which is set to be launched on Nintendo’s Wii U and 3DS consoles next year. To date, the petition has already amassed 21,800 signatures, just 3200 shy of its goal.

If you don’t know who Fils-Aime is, search him on YouTube first. You’ll find videos of his speeches at past video game conferences which tend to be quite good. He’s a very eloquent speaker.

Fortunately for fans, Fils-Aime is apparently open to being in the game, saying that his “body is ready.” Unfortunately for Sakurai, this may be just another brick in the wall. In an interview with the online gaming magazine Polygon, he stated the pressure he feels to decide which characters should be on the Super Smash Bros. is “almost to the brink of death.” Thank heavens for that word “almost,” but I get the idea. It’s a tough job.

How cool would it be If Fils-Aime were to appear in Super Smash Bros.? Fans would go bananas. Actually, I would go bananas and I don’t even like Super Smash Bros. The idea alone is just be glorious.

If Reggie is apparently ready, so am I. If this petition works, maybe I should start a petition to make Randy Pitchford a downloadable character. Until next time.

Peace and Pixels